Data and technology are often hailed as a magic ingredient that can help solve so many problems. But, as I discussed with Joe DosSantos on Data Brilliant – it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
In order to truly navigate uncertainty, the key is widening your focus and opening up your information sources. It comes down to balancing breadth of perspective with depth of expertise.
Keeping Experts on Tap, Not on Top
Now, as a caveat here, I’m in no way suggesting that we start dismissing experts. But, when you dive a little deeper into what it means to be an expert, often it implies a very detailed and thorough understanding of one particular area – deep knowledge with a very narrow and siloed focus. Of course, this is invaluable; however, it often comes with blinders that obscure context and perspective – two essential elements of making complex business decisions successfully.
It makes sense to think of yourself as putting together a mosaic. You are the artist, and the specialists and technologies are tiles. These tiles may be different in color, thickness and shape, but, as the artist, you utilize the tiles to paint the picture you want. Ultimately, you retain control, but extract expert value, using what you need to implement your vision.
Navigating uncertainty in today’s complex environment requires leaders to adopt a multifaceted approach to problems. By looking at the different factors that affect a business, senior decision-makers can increase the probability of generating insights, spotting opportunities and successfully navigating uncertainty.
One of the things Joe and I talked about in-depth is the concept of mindfully managing focus. The root of the problem is that we all seek to optimize every possible decision. We recognize that specialists or technologies are better at this task than we may be, so we outsource our decision-making and thinking to them.
We’ve all been there; after a long week, you come home and sit on the sofa to watch a movie. Now, if you wanted to optimize this experience, you could theoretically create a spreadsheet and trawl through Rotten Tomato ratings, dive into award show wins and critical reviews, and go through a number of other evaluation factors to develop an index that helps you find the perfect movie for your particular mood at that particular time. Alternatively, as many of us do, you could outsource your thinking to Netflix and let its algorithm work its magic. Much easier!
The key here is awareness – instead of blindly outsourcing decisions without considering the implications, it’s critical to do so knowingly and mindfully. In low-stakes situations like choosing a movie, the implications probably aren’t worth considering in too much depth. However, in other situations, for example, if you were undergoing a medical procedure, it’s important to dig deeper and ask more questions– how did your doctor come to her recommendation? What are the risks and what are the benefits of this approach? Is it worth the time and effort to get a second opinion?
Although you may ultimately choose to follow the advice of an expert, you won’t be doing so mindlessly. You’ll feel better about your decision and, more often than not, it will result in a better outcome.
Don’t Drown in Redundant Data
With so much data available today, we all run the risk of drowning in data. Worse, we often seek and are provided with redundant and confirmatory data. Data is only useful insofar as it provides insight. And, insight is only useful if it drives action. Thus, I suggest we all utilize multiple data streams to develop multiple insights and integrate those into informed action. Although it’s useful to have many dots, the key is to connect them.